CAA 2010 Targets Mercury, SO2, and NOx

At last week’s hearing on the Clean Air Act Amendments of 2010, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) emphasized that the United States is now one step closer to cleaning up the nation’s dangerously polluted air.

Carper is the bill's sponsor and also chair of the Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee.

The bill (S. 2995), which is co-sponsored by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and a bipartisan group of 12 senators, would cut mercury emissions by 90 percent from coal-fired power plants and tighten national limits on emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx).

“We can no longer delay on cleaning our nation’s air,” said Carper. “We heard from doctors about how pollution hurts their patients, and we heard from local government officials about how difficult it is for states, like Delaware, that are at the end of what I call our nation’s ‘tailpipe’ because of the heavy dose of pollution they get from other states.

“Americans exposed to this harmful air face serious health effects like asthma, cancer, brain damage, even death. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that every year 13,000 Americans lose their lives due to their exposure to harmful air pollutions. This is simply unacceptable. Beyond the human cost, there’s also a very serious health care cost – an estimated $100 billion annually ─ incurred because of harmful air pollution.

“As a country we cannot afford these costs any longer. Over the past 10 years, the Environmental Protection Agency has attempted to regulate harmful power plant emissions, but court challenges have delayed action. Delays in action mean lives and money lost.

“Our bill takes several steps to address this air pollution in an effective manner. It would save more than 200,000 lives and more than $2 trillion in health care costs over the next 15 years, while costing families less than $2 a month. Passage of our bill would also provide the certainty and predictability that American industry needs to start making energy investments in the future.”

EPA is moving forward with enhanced National Air Ambient Quality Standards to reduce these pollutants, and when these requirements are implemented, as many as 650 counties nationwide could be considered out of compliance and therefore subject to stricter air quality standards, which makes it very difficult to create and retain jobs. This legislation would help communities meet these air quality standards, so that new manufacturers can get clean air permits so they can build new facilities – and hire new workers.

Specifically, the bill would require electric utilities, through the use of emissions-control equipment (such as “scrubbers” on smokestacks) and other technologies, to:

  • cut SO2 emissions by 80 percent (from 7.6 million tons in 2008 to 1.5 million tons in 2018).
  • cut NOx emissions by 53 percent (from 3 million tons in 2008 to 1.6 million tons in 2015).
  • cut mercury emissions by at least 90 percent no later than 2015.

To ensure that regulations are cost-effective, the legislation also establishes nationwide trading systems for SO2 and NOx emissions. Mercury emissions would be reduced by using the maximum available control technology.

It has been 20 years since Congress tightened the Clean Air Act.

Other co-sponsors include Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), Edward Kaufman (D-Del.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).

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